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Honouring the Birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The March Remembrance

Dr M Shahinoor Rahan
16 Mar 2024 16:13:56 | Update: 16 Mar 2024 16:13:56
Honouring the Birth of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: The March Remembrance
— Courtesy photo

We commemorate the birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which falls on March 17, 1920.

We honour the influential individual whose insightful guidance and steadfast commitment influenced the future of a country. Bangabandhu, born during the turbulent period of colonial administration, became a symbol of hope for the Bengali people, ceaselessly battling for their rights and ambitions. His unwavering determination, together with his deep dedication to democracy and social equity, drove Bangladesh towards independence, representing a momentous victory over tyranny and exploitation. On his birth anniversary, let us contemplate the lasting impact of Bangabandhu, whose profound principles continue to motivate people across the globe, sparking the pursuit of freedom, equality, and advancement.

March holds an essential place in the life of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also known as the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, and in the national life of the people of Bangladesh. On March 17, 1920, Mujib was first exposed to the light of the earth. At age 51, on March 7, 1971, in front of millions of Bengalis at the Dhaka Race Course ground, he delivered a historic speech calling for the "struggle for freedom, the struggle for liberation." As a result, he made the official declaration of independence on March 26, and this day is celebrated as Bangladesh's Independence Day every year. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the country's independence, we celebrated the golden jubilee of the historic declaration of our independence by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This declaration was made by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This time, the golden jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh overlapped with another auspicious celebration event. That event was the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the harbinger of the country's independence. This overlap added more significance to the verve of the occasion.

The revitalised Bengali people, led by the benevolent and energetic Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the powerful and proud daughter of Bangabandhu, celebrated both events with the appropriate reverence and enjoyed themselves to the fullest extent possible. It was very fortunate and quite befitting that the birth centenary of Bangabandhu and the golden jubilee of our independence occurred in March. Both were being observed at a time when the nation was confidently striding forward along the highway of progress and development towards fulfilling Bangabandhu's dream of establishing Shonar Bangla following the immaculate directions of Sheikh Hasina, the heir to Bangabandhu's blood and leadership.

The twelve months that made up the year were associated with particular importance and significance. On the other hand, March in the Augustan calendar is regarded as a historic month in our nation's life and carries specific relevance and value with it. In fact, the Bengalis have always been presented with the idea that this month represents a struggle for independence. In 1947, when India was divided into two parts based on a two-nation theory and the state of Pakistan emerged, Bangladesh was annexed as East Pakistan. At the time, India was under the rule of the British Empire. However, our fight did not begin until 1948, when we demanded that Bangla be recognized as the state's official language. Following this, the movement for Bangladesh's autonomy and independence got underway. As a result of this movement, Bengalis wrestled control of their homeland away from Pakistan in 1971, thereby paving the way for establishing Bangladesh as an independent nation-state. Despite everything going on, the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, continued to lead the country effectively.

Multiple events in Bangladesh's national history took place in March between 1947 and 1971, and each is significant in its own right. Even though the Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad was established toward the end of 1947, it did not become active until March 2, 1948, when it was reconstructed at Dhaka University as the Sarbadaliya Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad (All National Party Council for state-language movement). The Bangla Bhasha Dabi Dibas program was held on March 11, and the student community was essential in organizing the event (Day for the demand of the Bangla language). Along with other top leaders, the student leader at the time, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was taken into custody. To voice their discontent, people in Dhaka went on strike on March 12 and 15. On March 15, the Chief Minister of East Pakistan, Khawaja Nizamuddin, was compelled to declare under pressure that he was willing to meet the 8-point demand of the Rashtrabhasha Sangram Parishad.

The arrival of Pakistan Governor Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Dhaka took place on March 19, 1948. At a public meeting on March 21, Jinnah declared that "Urdu and Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan." This event took place at what is now known as Suhrawardi Udyan. A resounding "No" came from the crowd in response to his proclamation whenever he spoke those words. Mohammad Ali Jinnah made an announcement similar to this at a gathering on March 24 at Dhaka University. Students at the university protested Jinnah's words with a loud 'No'. After that, several protest processions followed, each of which chanted the slogan "Rashtrabhasha Bangla chai." Bangla, the mother tongue of Bengalis, their own medium of communication, and the most highly prized by them, has finally been given the status of the state language in Pakistan.

The United Front was established in March of 1954, just in time for the elections for the Provincial Council. The people of East Bengal developed a 21-point charter as part of the United Front to protect their interests. However, the Pakistani government decided to pursue the strategy of subterfuge to maintain its control over the Bengalis. Because of this, the United Front was unable to remain functional. As a result, the people of East Bengal had no choice but to continue their arduous fight to shield themselves from the discrimination inflicted by the Pakistani government and preserve their own unique culture. Bhutto initially planned for a session of the Council to take place on March 3, 1971, but he eventually decided to cancel the meeting after Yahya Khan incited a rebellion. An all-party protest council, of which Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a member, called for strikes in Dhaka on March 2 and throughout the country on March 3 in response to the suspension of the session on March 3 as a result of the Bhutto-Yahya conspiracy. There was no failure in the execution of the strikes. On March 2, 1971, enlightened student leaders raised the red-green flag on Bengali soil for the first time.

During his historic address at the Ramna Race Course Ground on March 7, 1971, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman brought attention to the deception perpetrated by the West Pakistani regime against the people of East Pakistan. He stated in a tone that left no room for interpretation:

"Build a fort of every house." You must engage the foe using whatever means you have available to you. The fight we are involved in now is for our independence and our freedom. Remember that we have already allowed our blood to spill and will continue to do so. Now, but set the citizens of this country free in the name of Allah. Jai Bangla."

Bangabandhu's speech on March 7 inspired a determined spirit of solidarity among the people of Bengal. Everything in East Pakistan came to a near standstill for a while. On the television, in the newspapers, and in the voices of the listeners, the slogans were repeated repeatedly.

Jai Bangla Bangla, victory to Bengal, It’ll be so, so will it be, surely. Millions of souls together have risen in the dark of night This is quite the time for the new sun to rise.

Yahya Khan, who served as the military administrator of Pakistan at the time, felt the need to travel to Dhaka in response to the dire circumstances. After him came Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, the most popular political organization in West Pakistan. In the name of dialogue, Bhutto and Yahya procrastinated on various pretexts from March 25, 1971, until March 24, the following year. On the other hand, the purpose of Operation Searchlight was to cause death and suffering to the defenceless and innocent people living in East Pakistan. After putting the finishing touches on the preparations for the massacre on March 25, Bhutto and Yahya slipped out of Dhaka in the dead of night.

On the evening of March 25, a brutal massacre of sleeping Bengalis had already begun. The evening of March 25 is remembered as the darkest night in the annals of Bengali national history. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was apprehended before the dreary night of March 26 could end, and he was transported to Karachi in the early morning hours. Before he was taken into custody, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formally proclaimed Bangladesh's independence. The following day, the announcement of the Father of the Nation was broadcast from a temporary radio station at Kalurghat in Chittagong. This was done because the raiding forces had taken control of Dhaka's radio and television centres. At that time, almost all of Bangladesh's 75 million Bengalis took part in the resistance against Pakistani raids, which prompted the phrase "the whole nation." After nearly nine months of a bloody war, Bangladesh finally got rid of the invaders. Bangladesh accomplished this goal in exchange for the lives of three million people and the chastity of two million mothers and sisters. After the courageous people of Bengal, under the direction of their great leader, were successful in their fight for independence from colonial rule, they could walk proudly among the other nations of the world.

Therefore, the day we celebrate our nation's independence is March 26. To reiterate, the "Father of the Nation" birthday is March 17. On that day in 1920, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman considered the most influential architect in the Bengali nation, was born in Tungipara. On March 17, Bangladesh honours Bangabandhu's birthday and International Children's Day with the same reverence and fervour. The United Nations Organization (UNO) officially acknowledged Bangladesh as a developing country on Bangabandhu's birthday in 2018, which is a source of tremendous pride for the people of Bangladesh. Bangabandhu's speech on March 7 of the same year gained international recognition as a historic and the best one globally. Bangabandhu's March 7 historic speech has proven to be a significant accomplishment for our national life.

In any event, the month of March is intimately connected to the nation's history and the man who is considered the nation's "Father." Once winter is over, the first month of spring gives Bengalis a new lease on life and a new source of inspiration. The man who was the primary architect of that life and the origin of inspiration was Bangabandhu, who was born in the springtime. He has developed into the representation of the month itself, which is March, known as the month of liberation and freedom. This became more apparent right at the moment when the entire nation was celebrating the month of March like never before — since the Mujib centenary and the golden jubilee of independence juxtaposed in 2020 — and rejuvenating the dreams of Bangabandhu about Bangla, Bangladesh, and the Bengali nation under the graceful leadership of Honorable Prime Minister Jononetree Sheikh Hasina. Undoubtedly, the festivities honouring Mujib and March will continue beyond this point. March will likely be recalled and brought up in conversation on many occasions as long as Bangladesh and the Bengali people continue to exist. Even though the great political poet and founder of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is not physically present with us at this time, his humanity, values, patriotism, philosophy, and sense of Bengali cultural consciousness will be carried along by the eternal progression of time.

The author is a scholar, writer, columnist, folklorist, and Professor of English, Islamic University, Kushtia, Bangladesh